This season, Clemson returns the bulk of its 2017 rushing attack in the form of QB Kelly Bryant, and three of the four featured running backs (CJ Fuller being the one not returning). Clemson’s ground game looks extremely stout as it is, but buzz out of camp has given the impression that this year’s attack could be even more lethal, but more on that later. First, the returning talent:
Etienne had a huge breakout year as a freshman and returns as Clemson’s leading rusher with 766 yards last year. The wild thing about this is that his snaps were somewhat “limited” throughout the year due to his issues with pass protection. Etienne didn’t even take a snap in Clemson’s week two win over Auburn. Travis has an explosive 7.2 yards per carry and has been an outstanding runner after contact.
Weak pass pro is a fairly common issue amongs young running backs, and reports seem to indicate Etienne has improved in this facet of his game. If Etienne can be on the field more often this year, breaking 1,000 yards should be absolutely no problem for him.
Choice is probably my favorite player on the team and just a general good guy to cheer for. I think people forget exactly how good Choice is. Choice was a four star running back in the class of 2014; the ninth best player in the state of Georgia and chose Clemson over the likes of Florida State, Auburn, Georgia, and Florida (back when Florida still had some relevance). Choice started off 2014 with 218 yards on 50 carries before a knee injury vs BC derailed his season and opened the door for Wayne Gallman to cement his legacy at Clemson. Choice redshirted in 2015, was used sparingly in ‘16, which brings us to last year. Choice’s numbers (326 yards on 67 carries) weren’t that eye popping, but his impact in the run game was very noticeable. Dude’s a hard runner and is coming in this year a bit beefier at 5’9” 225. His hard power running paired with Etienne’s explosiveness could give Clemson fans flash backs to James Davis and CJ Spiller.
Speaking of Spiller, the man who wears the old 28 jersey is also back. Feaster’s slimmed down a bit, now at 210 lbs to fit his 5’11 frame, so expect him to be more in the speed/scat back role. Given Etienne and Choice’s strong running between the tackles, ideally Clemson’s offense can work more to get Feaster into space, because dude is deadly.
Seeing a Clemson running back get wide open on a wheel route and go untouched for a 50+ yard touchdown is one of the most beautiful sites you’ll ever see, and it’s even better when the running back is wearing #28.
Feaster was the #2 rusher last season with 669 rushing yards, and added 112 receiving yards to boot. I imagine Feaster’s receiving yards will go up and Clemson will utilize him more in the screen and short passing game.
So, all of that running back talent looks awesome, right? But wait, there’s more! The Tigers welcome freshman Lyn-J Dixon, a 5’11 195 lb all purpose back from Butler, Georgia to the fold. Dixon is a rivals four star, meaning Clemson’s running back stable consists of three four stars and one three star (Etienne, believe it or not). Stars certainly aren’t everything, but that’s a pretty nice bit of talent to work with.
The buzz on Lyn-J is that he’s similar to how Etienne was last year, and eye popping playmaker. Reports indicate that he may be farther ahead on some aspects than Etienne was last year. While he probably isn’t ready to start, Dixon can definitely be a fun addition to a stacked backfield.
Other Running backs:
#21 Darein Rencher (SO)
#32 Sylvester Mayers (SO)
#35 Ty Thomason (JR)
#37 Ryan Mac Lain (SR)